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James Mattis, Outspoken Ex-Marine, Is Trump’s Choice as Defense Secretary

New York Times  – ‎3 hours ago‎
James N. Mattis, a retired Marine general, leaving a meeting with President-elect Donald J. Trump in Bedminster, N.J., last month.

James Mattis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
James Mattis
Gen James N Mattis.jpg
Commander of United States Central Command
In office
August 11, 2010 – March 22, 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by John Allen (acting)
Succeeded by Lloyd Austin
Commander of the United States
Joint Forces Command
In office
November 9, 2007 – August 11, 2010
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by Lance Smith
Succeeded by Keith Huber (acting)
Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation
In office
November 9, 2007 – September 8, 2009
Preceded by Lance L. Smith
Succeeded by Stéphane Abrial
Personal details
Born September 8, 1950 (age 66)
Pullman, Washington, U.S.
Political party Independent
Alma mater Central Washington University (BA)
Military service
  • “Chaos” (callsign)[1]
  • “Warrior Monk”
  • “Mad Dog Mattis”[2]
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1969–2013
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General

James N. “Jim” Mattis (born September 8, 1950) is a retired United States Marine Corps general who last served as the 11th commander of United States Central Command from August 11, 2010 to March 22, 2013.

Mattis is known for implementing the COIN strategy. Before President Obama appointed him to replace General Petraeus on August 11, 2010, he previously commanded United States Joint Forces Command from November 9, 2007 to August 2010 and served concurrently as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from November 9, 2007 to September 8, 2009. Prior to that, he commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War.[3]

On December 1, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced that Mattis would be nominated to serve as United States Secretary of Defense in the coming administration.[4]

Early life and education

Mattis was born on September 8, 1950 in Pullman, Washington.[5] His mother’s name is Lucille (Proulx) Mattis.[6] He graduated from Columbia High School, Richland, Washington, in 1968.

Military career

He initially enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1969.[7] He later earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in historyfrom Central Washington University[8] and was commissioned a second lieutenant through ROTC on January 1, 1972.[9] During his service years, Mattis was considered to be an intellectual among the upper ranks, with his personal library numbering more than 7,000 volumes. Major General Robert H. Scales, Retired, PhD, described him as “….one of the most urbane and polished men I have known.” Reinforcing this intellectual persona was the fact he carried his own personal copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius throughout his deployments.[10]

As a lieutenant, Mattis served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he was assigned as the Naval Academy Preparatory School’s Battalion Officer (composed of Enlisted Midshipman Candidates and its Company Officers and Enlisted Staff), commanded Rifle and Weapons Companies in the 1st Marine Regiment, then Recruiting Station Portland, Oregon, as a major.

Persian Gulf War

Upon promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Mattis commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, which was one of Task Force Ripper‘s assault battalions during the Persian Gulf War.

Afghanistan War

As a colonel, Mattis commanded the 7th Marine Regiment. He led the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade as its commanding officer upon promotion to brigadier general.

During the initial planning for the War in Afghanistan, Mattis led Task Force 58 in operations in the southern part of the country, becoming the first Marine Corps officer to ever command a Naval Task Force in combat.[9]

While serving in Afghanistan as a brigadier general, he was known as an officer who engaged his men with “real leadership”. A young Marine officer named Nathaniel Fick cited an example of that leadership when he witnessed Mattis in a fighting hole talking with a sergeant and a lance corporal: “No one would have questioned Mattis if he’d slept eight hours each night in a private room, to be woken each morning by an aide who ironed his uniforms and heated his MREs. But there he was, in the middle of a freezing night, out on the lines with his Marines.”[11]

Iraq War

Letter written by Mattis on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, addressed to members of the 1st Marine Division.

As a major general, Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent stability operations during the Iraq War.[12]

Mattis played key roles in combat operations in Fallujah, including negotiation with the insurgent command inside the city during Operation Vigilant Resolve in April 2004, as well as participation in planning of the subsequent Operation Phantom Fury in November. In May 2004, Mattis ordered the 3 a.m. bombing of a suspected enemy safe house near the Syrian border, which later came to be known as the Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre, and which resulted in the locally-reported deaths of 42 civilian men, women and children who were attending a wedding celebration. Mattis stated that it had taken him 30 seconds to deliberate on bombing the location.[13]

Following a U.S. Department of Defense survey that showed only 55% of American soldiers and 40% of U.S. Marines would report a colleague for abusing civilians, Mattis told U.S. Marines in May 2007 that “Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it’s a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents.” Reflecting an understanding of the need for restraint in war as key to defeating an insurgency, he added that “Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave.”[14]

Mattis popularized the 1st Marine Division’s motto “no better friend, no worse enemy”, a paraphrase of the famous self-made epitaph for the Roman dictator Sulla,[15] in his open letter to all men within the division for their return to Iraq. This phrase later became widely publicized during the investigation into the conduct of Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, a platoon commander serving under Mattis.[16][17][18][19][20][21]

As his division prepared to ship out, Mattis called in experts in Arab culture to lead cultural sensitivity classes. He constantly toured the battlefield to tell stories of Marines who were able to show discretion and cultural sensitivity in moments of high pressure.[22] He encouraged his men to grow mustaches to look more like the people they were working with.[22]

He also was noted for a willingness to remove senior leaders under his command at a time when the U.S. military seemed unable or unwilling to relieve under-performing or incompetent officers. During the division’s push to Baghdad, Mattis relieved Colonel Joe D. Dowdy, regimental commander of Regimental Combat Team-1, and it was such a rare occurrence in the modern military that it made the front page of newspapers. Despite this, Mattis declined to comment on the matter publicly other than to say that the practice of officer relief remains alive, or at least “We are doing it in the Marines.”[11] Later interviews of Dowdy’s officers and men revealed that “the colonel was doomed partly by an age-old wartime tension: Men versus mission—in which he favored his men” while Mattis insisted on execution of the mission to seize Baghdad swiftly.[23]

Combat Development Command

After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking ad libitum at a forum in San Diego, he said “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” Mattis’s remarks sparked controversy and General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement suggesting that Mattis should have chosen his words more carefully, but would not be disciplined.[24]

U.S. Joint Forces Command

Mattis testifies before the Committee on Armed Services during his confirmation hearing for appointment to Commander.

The Pentagon announced on May 31, 2006 that Lieutenant General Mattis was chosen to take command of I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.[25] On September 11, 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gatesannounced that President George W. Bush had nominated Mattis for appointment to the rank of general to command U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. NATO agreed to appoint Mattis as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. On September 28, 2007, the United States Senate confirmed Mattis’s nomination, and he relinquished command of I MEF on November 5, 2007 to Lieutenant General Samuel Helland.

Mattis was promoted to four-star general and took control of JFCOM/SACT on November 9, 2007. He transferred the job of SACT to French General Stéphane Abrial on September 9, 2009, but continued in command of JFCOM.[26]

U.S. Central Command

In early 2010, Mattis was reported to be on the list of U.S. Marine generals being considered for selection to replace James T. Conway as the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.[27] In July, he was recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for nomination to replace David Petraeus as commander of United States Central Command,[5][28] and formally nominated by PresidentBarack Obama on July 21.[29]

His confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee marked the first time Marines had held billets as commander and deputy commander of a Unified Combatant Command.[30] He took command at a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base on August 11.[31][32][33]

As head of Central Command, Mattis oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was responsible for a region that includes Syria, Iran, Yemen.[34] The Obama administration did not place much trust in Mattis, because he was perceived to be too eager for a military confrontation with Iran.[35]

He retired from the Marine Corps on May 22, 2013.

Civilian career

Since retirement from the military, Mattis has worked for FWA Consultants and also serves as a Member of the General Dynamics Board of Directors.[36] In August 2013, he became an Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution[37] and has since been named as their Davies Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow.[38]

In mid-2012, a Department of Defense official evaluating Theranos’s blood-testing technology for military initiated a formal inquiry with the Food and Drug Administration about the company’s intent to distribute its tests without FDA clearance. In August 2012, via email, Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of Theranos asked Mattis, who had expressed interest in testing Theranos’s technology in combat areas, to help. Within hours, Mattis forwarded his email exchange with Holmes to military officials, asking “how do we overcome this new obstacle.”[39] Since 2013, Mattis has been a board member of Theranos, a controversial Silicon Valleybiotech company with criticized corporate governance practices.[40] In a July 2013 letter from the Department of Defense approving his possible employment by Theranos, Mattis was given permission with conditions. He was cautioned to do so only if he did not represent Theranos with regards to the blood testing device and its potential acquisition by the Departments of the Navy or Defense.[39] According to the Wall Street Journal, Theranos is under criminal investigation.[41]

In December 2015, Mattis joined the advisory board[42] of Spirit of America – a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides assistance to support the safety and success of American troops and the local people they seek to help.

He is co-editor of the book, Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military, published in August 2016.[43]

Secretary of Defense

On November 20, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump said that he was considering Mattis for Secretary of Defense. Trump met with Mattis for a little over one hour in Bedminster, New Jersey.[44] He later stated on Twitter, “General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who is being considered for Secretary of Defense, was very impressive yesterday. A true General’s General!”[45]

On December 1, 2016, it was announced at a rally in Cincinnati that Mattis would be nominated for Secretary of Defense by President-elect Donald Trump.[46] As Mattis retired from the military in 2013, his nomination will require a waiver of the National Security Act of 1947, which requires a seven-year wait period before retired military personnel can assume the role of Secretary of Defense.[47] Mattis would be the second Secretary of Defense to receive such a waiver, following George Marshall.[47]

Political views

Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Mattis talks to General Martin Dempsey on board a C-17 while flying to Baghdad, December 15, 2011.

Mattis supports a two-state solution model for Israel-Palestinian peace. He says the current situation in Israel is “unsustainable” and argues that the settlements harm prospects for peace and could theoretically lead to an apartheid-like situation in the West Bank.[48] In particular, he believes the lack of a two-state solution is upsetting to the Arab allies of America, which weakens US esteem amongst its Arab allies. Mattis strongly supports John Kerry on the Middle East peace process, praising Kerry for being “wisely focused like a laser-beam” towards a two-state solution.[49]

Iran and Arab allies

Mattis believes that Iran is the principal threat to the stability of the Middle East, ahead of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Mattis says: “I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief. Iran is not an enemy of ISIS. They have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that ISIS creates.” On the Iran nuclear deal, although he sees it as a poor agreement, he believes there is now no way to tear it up, saying: “We are just going to have to recognize that we have an imperfect arms control agreement. Second, that what we achieved is a nuclear pause, not a nuclear halt”.[50] Mattis argues that the nuclear inspections may fail to prevent Iran from seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but that “[i]f nothing else at least we will have better targeting data if it comes to a fight in the future.”[50] Additionally, he criticizes President Barack Obama for being naive about Iranian intentions and Congress for being “pretty much absent” on last year’s nuclear deal.[51] Mattis’ views on Iran were speculated to have been the reason he was fired by President Obama.[52]

Mattis praises the friendship of regional US allies such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.[53] He has criticized Barack Obama and Donald Trump for their view of seeing allies as ‘free-loading’, saying: “For a sitting U.S. president to see our allies as freeloaders is nuts.”[53] He has cited the importance of the United Arab Emirates and Jordan as countries that wanted to help, for example, in filling in the gaps in Afghanistan.[54] He has criticized current defense strategy as giving “the perception we’re pulling back” from US allies.[54] He stresses the need for the US to bolster its ties with allied intelligence agencies, particularly the intelligence agencies of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.[55] In 2012, Mattis argued for providing weapons to Syrian rebels, as a way to fight back against Iranian proxies in Syria.[56]


Speaking at a Heritage Foundation conference in Washington in 2015 Mattis stated that he believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s intent is “to break NATO apart.”[57] Mattis has also spoken out against (what he believed to be) Russia’s expansionist or bellicose policies in Syria, Ukraine and the Baltic states.[58] Mattis also believes that Donald Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Russia are ill informed.[58]

Personal life

Mattis receiving the Distinguished Military Leadership Award from Michael Mullen at the annual Atlantic Council Awards Gala in Washington, D.C.

Mattis is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. Mattis is also noted for his intellectualism and interest in the study of military history and world history,[12][22] with a personal library that once included over 7,000 volumes,[1] and a penchant for publishing required reading lists for Marines under his command.[59][60] Mattis is a life-long bachelor,[61] who has never been married and has no children.[1] He is nicknamed “The Warrior Monk” because of his bachelor life, and the fact he devoted his life to studying and fighting war.[62] He is known for the intellectual rigor he puts on his Marines and his belief in risk-management, and in the need for troops under his command to read widely about the cultural norms and history of the area they are sent to, as he himself does. Before deploying to Iraq, Mattis ensured his troops were given courses on Arab culture and cultural sensitivity classes.[22]

Military awards

Mattis’s decorations, awards, and badges include:

Bronze oak leaf cluster


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